Electric pickups are coming, but the road ahead could be rocky
(NEW YORK) — With all the flashy ads, high-profile awards and glitzy launch parties, you could be forgiven for thinking the electric car craze is actually an electric truck craze.
The R1T, an electric pickup from a startup called Rivian, took top honors in Motor Trend’s annual Truck of the Year competition for 2022. The supporting vehicles for Jeff Bezos’ space journey l last year were also Rivians. Ford claims around 200,000 people have already booked its next electric truck, the F-150 Lightning. Last year, NBA star Lebron James became one of the first people outside General Motors to check out the GMC Hummer EV, a 1,000 horsepower platform the company calls a “supertruck.” And that was a few years ago when Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled Blade Runner-inspired ‘Cybertruck’ to much fanfare at an event in Los Angeles.
Last week at CES, General Motors CEO Mary Barra showed off the Chevrolet Silverado EV, which the company says can go up to 400 miles on a single charge when equipped with the largest battery available. . Scot Hoskisson, senior program manager for electric pickups at GM, says they’re also aiming for truck-like performance numbers.
“Our goal toward mass adoption of electric vehicles isn’t just to create an electric truck,” Hoskisson says. “It’s that we wanted to create a truck that has all the capabilities and more of today’s pickup trucks that happens to be a zero-emission electric vehicle. [vehicle].”
The company says the Silverado EV will be available with 664 horsepower and 780 lb-ft of torque in the top-line “RST” trim. This model, along with its corporate cousin, the GMC Hummer EV, is expected to cost upwards of $100,000. GM has also introduced a base “work truck” version for the Silverado, which the company says will start under $40,000. Hoskisson thinks the market will react to the new truck, even though it has almost nothing in common with the existing gas-powered Silverado.
“We believe the Silverado EV is a reimagined full-size electric pickup truck. And because of that, we believe it has compelling market advantages.
GM says it is investing thirty-five billion dollars in electric vehicles by 2025, with the intention of selling only electric vehicles by 2035. A big part of that will be the company’s new purpose-built electric platform, which it calls “Ultium “.
“An electric ground vehicle has many advantages over a regular gasoline-powered vehicle,” says Chad Kirchner, editor-in-chief of EV Pulse. “An electric vehicle in the ground means that Chevrolet and General Motors can put the batteries as structural elements in the ground.”
In the past, automakers typically adapted existing vehicle platforms to accommodate electric powertrains. But there were tradeoffs to this approach: Batteries often ate into luggage space, and electric range could be paltry. Kirchner says when you design a car to accommodate batteries from the start, “it’s just easier to pack.”
Packaging is a big deal for the pickup truck market, in particular. Traditional vans lack trunks, which means owners are missing out on valuable lockable storage space. Electric trucks have no motor, which frees up the front of the vehicle for a front trunk, or “frunk”.
The Silverado EV uses the extra space with what it calls an “eTrunk.” The same goes for the F-150 Lightning, although Ford calls its version a “Mega Power Frunk”.
The Rivian R1T also has plenty of frunk space, and since there’s no transmission to take up underfloor space, the Rivian gets what the company calls a “gear tunnel.” It’s basically a tube-shaped storage compartment that fits between the rear seats and the bed of the truck. Rivian will even sell you a portable kitchen that runs off the truck’s battery, complete with an electric stove – and even a kitchen sink.
There’s another reason so many automakers are committing to electric trucks: Americans love pickup trucks. Ford sold more than 700,000 F-Series trucks in 2021, making it the top-selling vehicle in the country for the 44th consecutive year. Ram and Chevy were close behind, both selling more than half a million pickups last year. In fact, a traditional sedan doesn’t even make the list of the top five selling vehicles in the country. Kirchner says there’s a good reason for that.
“Truck manufacturers learned a long time ago that they could make a lot more money by providing a family car experience with a bed, which is ultimately what a modern pickup truck is,” he says. “Why have two cars in the driveway when you can have one that does it all?”
Rivian was the first of this new wave of electric trucks to start making deliveries earlier this winter, but others are following closely. Ford announced last week that it was doubling production of its electric F150 “Lightning” to meet demand. As for that Hummer EV?
“They only sold one, but there was a Hummer EV sale in the fourth quarter of 2021,” Kirchner says, joking that “it’s probably [GM CEO] Mary Barra’s personal car, but they shipped one.
The energy around electric trucks comes at a crucial time for the automotive industry. Back in 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a decree requiring all new cars sold in the state to be zero emissions by 2035. The European Union is working on similar legislation.
“You’re going to start seeing these trucks, like, soon,” Kirchner says.
But it’s not exactly an easy road to follow. A worldwide shortage of semiconductors has delayed production in the automotive industry, particularly at General Motors. The Indiana plant that makes Silverado gasoline stopped production several times last year because of the chip shortage, and sales ended up dropping 13%. The electric Silverado isn’t expected to hit dealerships until 2023, more than a year after Ford’s target date.
Additionally, reliable public charging infrastructure is still being built, which means EV owners have limited options when it comes to charging on long journeys. A notable exception is Tesla. The company operates thousands of “Supercharger” stations around the world, which only work with Tesla vehicles. But Tesla has a different problem. The Cybertruck was originally scheduled to enter production in late 2021. But last year, after several delays attributed to the pandemic, the truck’s production date, along with other key information like price, quietly disappeared from Tesla’s website. .
“Will we see Cybertruck in 2022? I do not know. Maybe,” Kirchner says, adding, “maybe aliens will invade.”
Listen to ABC News Radio’s Mike Dobuski report on the electric truck market:
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